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Blind Side, The

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // March 23, 2010
List Price: $28.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Casey Burchby | posted March 28, 2010 | E-mail the Author

(The following was transcribed from the hand-written notes* of an assistant present during a pre-production meeting for The Blind Side attended by representatives from Alcon Entertainment and Warner Brothers. Items have been numbered and italicized for readability. My annotations are throughout. )

    1. Bestselling book by respected author Michael Lewis.
    2. Jettison Lawrence Taylor story; too edgy.

The book's full title is The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Had Lewis's book been fully adapted, telling the parallel tales of the young Michael Oher and of Lawrence Taylor at the height of his game, it would have made a vastly more interesting film. The significance that Lewis draws from pairing these stories - about the nature of football and how it has changed in recent years - is a sort of literary magic trick, but without fakery.

    1. For Christians; that "Thomas Kinkade" feeling.
    2. In Memphis, segregation is a fact of life.

This is an assumption by the filmmakers that is set down without giving us any idea of what Memphis, as a city, is like. Most of this film feels like it takes place in Memphis in, perhaps, the 1950s. In fact, it's set within the last decade. The racial attitudes that are portrayed do no credit to white residents of that city. I am in no position to say whether they are realistic. However, they certainly appear simplistic, and for a city in which racial tension has been a defining feature for centuries, it would seem as though finer nuance would exist on the spectrum between racism and brotherhood. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that Southerners generally hold a more mature, self-aware grasp of the issue than, say, Californians. But in The Blind Side, if you're white, you're either racist or angelically tolerant, like the Tuohys, who take in a black teenager without much fuss. The not-so-subtle racism of this movie is conveyed visually, too: if you're white, you exist among glowing amber hues; if black, you live in a perpetually cold steel-blue haze.

    1. Lead is a giant homeless teenage black boy whose parents are on drugs or dead, and he needs a leg up.
    2. White woman takes poor black boy to greatness; strong female lead (Leigh Anne).
    3. Are we nervous about seeming racist?
    4. Spunky.
    5. Spunky. Spunky.
    6. Sandra Bullock has turned script down.

Bullock should have never relented. It's a poorly-written role that calls for the following acting "challenges": Bullock must maintain an out-of-fashion frosted hairdo; she must stay chipper and aggressive and witty - you know, like Vicki Lawrence on Mama's Family, except with a great ass. Also, she must, at least once, restrain tears. How Bullock - who I won't deny has a certain innate charm - won an Oscar for this thin stereotype of a part is beyond my comprehension.

    1. Other black characters: dangerous, drug-addled, lewd.
    2. Other white characters: friendly, homespun, cuddles.
    3. Are we nervous about seeming racist?
    4. White woman's son is robust comic relief; cast Howdy Doody if available.

As the younger son, who goes by SJ, Jae Head proves to be one of the most annoying junior performers on film in a long time. He does look like Howdy Doody incarnate, and I'd rather the producers had cast the marionette instead of this grating child, whose incessant mugging and face-pulling is positively bizarre.

    1. Are we nervous about seeming racist?
    2. Director? Someone from the South; someplace homespun and friendly. NO ANGELENOS OR NEW YORK JEWS.

John Lee Hancock is capable of far better than The Blind Side. His much-maligned The Alamo is a lot better than its reputation; his Dennis Quaid baseball picture, The Rookie, is very strong; and his screenplay for Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World is nothing short of outstanding. (And his adaptation of the difficult Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - also for Eastwood - wasn't bad, either.) So what happened here? I have no clue, except to say that the film is jam-packed with narrative shortcuts and clich├ęs; it's a film that suggests a minimum of pre-production and a very fast production schedule. Everything is cursory, without attention to the details of character, setting, or even the movie's broader themes. In short, it's a hack job.

    1. Bullock would be wonderful. Why did she turn us down? How can we get her?
    2. Julia Roberts? Too metropolitan?
    3. Someone heard that Tim McGraw actually loves Taco Bell!

As the owner of several dozen Taco Bell franchises, McGraw gives the most convincing performance in the movie. Let me repeat that: Tim McGraw gives the most convincing performance in the movie. As Oher, Quinton Aaron holds his own and projects a certain power, and that's saying something because his under-written role has even less depth than Bullock's. Yet through the hysterical smoke screen of her peppy Southern maxims and nonsensical football dialogue, Aaron manages to convey something interesting.

    1. The 16-year-old daughter should be uncomfortably hot.
    2. SPUNKY. Sass-mouth. Straight-shooter. Loves Jesus. Homespun.
    3. Black boy shouldn't seem too "black." He's kind and sweet. Like Gentle Ben. Or Jesus. Some say He was black. We don't really know. Parallel could work. They both suffered with dignity.
    4. String out first hour so that it feels like three. Respectable films are slow!

The Blind Side runs 128 minutes and feels like it's at least 50% longer than that. The film's first half is very slow. Although further cutting would not have solved the film's fundamental shortcomings, you could easily cut 30 minutes without losing anything important.

    1. Bullock on phone now. She is still thinking about it.
    2. Lure Bullock with promises of enormous Oscar campaign. Keywords: respectable; prestige; homespun; cuddles.
    3. Does Bullock prefer "Sandra" or "Sandy" in casual conversation? Follow up.
    4. Call from Howdy Doody's agent! He has expressed deep interest. Requests huge supply of Pixie Sticks and Pepsi to be available on set at all times.
    5. Large black boy (Michael) and small white boy (Howdy) singing "Bust a Move" will be the mismatched comic highlight of the film.
    6. No one has that spunk but Bullock. She is a must. And she can do Southern accents.
    7. No writer yet. Screenplay writes itself. Whites helping blacks. Everyone feels good.
    8. Are we nervous about seeming racist?


The Video
The enhanced 1.78:1 transfer is bright and clear. It's a 2009 film, and it looks like it. Another fine image from the dependable people at Warner Brothers.

The Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is strong and well-balanced. Dialogue is up front, but both ambient and musical surrounds are used appropriately.

The Extras
There are seven minutes of Deleted Scenes. These don't add anything of value to the already overlong feature.

Final Thoughts

The Blind Side is a terrible film. Simplistic themes are handled without wit, insight, or even a salutary glance at realism. Two key roles - Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) and her son SJ (Howdy Doody) - seem to have been performed by actors trying out for an after school special. Bullock, an Oscar-winner? For this? For shame. And the candy-ass antics of the young boy have to be seen to be believed. The Blind Side is a racially-charged joke of a movie. You'll think you've died and gone back to the Memphis that Dr. King knew. Skip it.


Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.

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